Hoofdbord met luchtzuivering © AirTulip
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About AirTulip

  • Founders: Arjen de Jong, Raoul Valstar
  • Founded in: 2020, New York
  • Employees: 8
  • Money raised: US$300,000
  • Ultimate goal: We want to help as many people as possible breathe easy again

A stuffed nose, swollen eyes, itchy skin. People living with allergies recognize like no one else the complaints that get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Indoor allergies, such as a house dust mite allergy, are extremely difficult to combat. AirTulip, which has a production site in the Dutch town of Barneveld and offices in New York, first developed a ‘big tulip’ at the start of the corona crisis as a way of purifying air. The technology that they used for this is something that they have also applied to their new gadget: a headboard, which helps you sleep better. The company boldly claims to provide better air purification systems than other well established brands such as Philips and Dyson. In this instalment of start-up of the day, Arjen de Jong talks to us from New York about his company. 

Let’s get straight to the point about how much self-confidence you have. Where is this coming from? 

“I have the courage to make that statement because I’ve been involved in this sector for many years. Our systems have been extensively tested by TU/e and the results of our performance levels are genuinely better than those of our competitors. It’s not about how clean your filter is, or how many particles a filter captures from the air. The air itself has got to be clean. There are no particles left in the air when we use our air purification system. This is because our systems have ten times more cleaning power than other companies.” 

Arjen de Jong © AirTulip

What is the added value of having no airborne particles anymore? Aren’t they actually good for our immune system? 

“If you can choose between sleeping without a respiratory infection or with one, then the choice is easy, right? People want to be able to sleep soundly. Building up immunity is important, however, your immune system will not be weakened by a clean bedroom. You sleep on average one-third of the day. The rest of the day you spend being among people, you’re out and about, in stores – that’s how you maintain your immune system. The air in many cities is very polluted and is more harmful than good for your immune system. The clean air you get from our air purification headboard is similar to the clean air in the Swiss Alps where people go to recover, and where the quality of life is overall higher over the years.” 

Is there any evidence yet that your headboard promotes better sleep and health? 

We have already done some technical testing to optimize our product, but not yet extensively on the health of people. That’s what we’re working on now. We are looking at how children are sleeping with a headboard like this in their room. We want to know if it can prevent the spread of disease as well. This also counts for the elderly. We now have a deal in place with an NFL player. That player will be given our headboard to use for a time in his home. We will then start taking measurements to see if his performance on the field improves as well. We’re not just interested in clean air, or helping people with allergies, we want to help everyone get the most out of life by helping them get a better night’s sleep.”

One of the people who got to try it out for us at their home went on vacation. He obviously couldn’t take the headboard with him. Yet he did notice a difference. Even though he was on vacation, he wasn’t able to get enough rest. Once he got home, he was fully rested after two nights. This is an anecdotal example that it works. Now we are setting out to prove that it really does work.” 

© AirTulip

Everyone wants a good night’s sleep, but what’s the price tag on this? 

“The retail price is going to be in the US$2,500 range, with filters that need to be replaced every few months. Those filters cost around two hundred dollars. For the early birds who buy through our Kickstarter, which will go online on August the 30th, they’ll get a 40 percent discount. It’s a lot of money, and it is definitely in the luxury segment, but it is more than just a headboard. It also has a lamp on the back, a charging point for your phone or tablet, and most importantly, an air purifier. The manufacture of such a headboard, all the technology that goes into it, is just really expensive. We have to pass these costs on to the user.”

“Also, we’ve made a very conscious choice for certain materials that are more sustainable, but also for contracts with various suppliers whom we can choose from so that we can always deliver. We are currently in talks in the Netherlands with a well-known bed brand. They are already active in the luxury segment. With this kind of partnership, the knife would cut both ways. They have another product that they can offer, and we have a good clientele. We are aware that our product is not intended for every household. But you can compare it to Tesla. They initially only built Teslas for the luxury segment so that they could then make Teslas accessible to the average person.” 

What was the biggest setback? 

“The headboard is our newest line. But we’ve been working on air purification systems for some time now. I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced anything as a setback. Although it was difficult at times to convince people that air purification systems are important. When corona first hit, it was hard to explain exactly what the effect was and what was being done. We said that it was necessary to measure immediately how many virus particles were in the air and then bring those figures down. But it took a long time before there were parties that we could establish contact with and who wanted to get involved.” 

Where do you hope to be five years from now? 

“We are busy with attracting investment through the likes of Kickstarter, which is a start for our headboard. We are now beginning to get the hang of air purification systems. Dyson used a cyclone system, that was originally used in other industries, in a vacuum cleaner so that it could filter bag-free. Then used it for air purification systems and even hair dryers. That’s something we can do too. We have the technology, the innovation and are keen to figure out what else we can do with that. We are open to partnerships where we can contribute our knowledge to come up with a new purification system. When companies with a lot of knowledge team up together, more than anything else, a lot of magic is created.”